The UTEP cross country team puts its strengths and efforts to the final test this weekend at the biggest meet of the season: the NCAA Championships.
With many victories already under their belts, the Miners are ready to hit the course for one final challenge. The NCAA Championships will be held in Terre Haute, Ind. on Saturday hosted by Indiana State University.
The men’s team punched their ticket to the big dance for their third-straight year (18th appearance) after clinching the fifth-place position at the NCAA Mountain Regionals last weekend. The Orange and Blue ran a 10K against some of the strongest teams in the nation, who will join the field in Terre Haute, Ind.
Head coach Paul Ereng is confident in his team and has faith that they will perform well at the championships.
“It is very a big thing that the men were able to qualify for a third time in a row,” Ereng said. “Regionals was very competitive, and the completion level at nationals is going to be very deep, so I am happy that everyone is healthy and ready.”
Some of the teams the men will be facing include No. 1 Northern Arizona University, No. 2 Colorado, No. 3 Stanford, No. 5 Syracuse, No. 6 Arkansas and No. 7 Iona.
The men have already faced off with Northern Arizona, and Colorado at the NCAA Mountain Regional meet in which they took gold and silver, respectively. This can serve as an advantage to UTEP since the Miners were able to stay with the pack of the lead runners for the majority of the 10K.
The men’s squad seeks to finish in the top-10 at the championships this year. At last year’s championship appearance, the Miners narrowly missed out on a top-10 team finish after placing 11th overall with 354 points. Georgetown nipped UTEP for the tenth place spot with 352 points.
“Our main goal is to see if we can get to the top-ten,” Ereng said. “It’ll be tough because everyone who qualified to this meet is going to be on top of their game, but even if we improve one spot up from last year, it will be a great accomplishment.”
Leading the men, Jonah Koech seeks to improve his 11th place (30:04.4) showing at last year’s meet in the 10K. Seniors Cosmas Boit (19th at regionals) and Evans Kiprono (64th at regionals) prepare to run their final NCAA Cross Country Championship race. Daniel Cheruiyot (59th at regionals) will run his third-career championship race.
Freshmen Michael Saruni and Emmanuel Korir will run their first ever career NCAA Championship. Saruni (29th place) finished in the top-30 at regionals and Korir placed 83rd.
Representing the women is standout freshman Winny Koech who clinched second in the 6K at regionals, and was the gold winner at C-USA Championships. Koech is the first female individual representative at nationals for UTEP since 2012.
In a field of nationally ranked competitors at the NCAA Mountain Regionals, the freshman kept up with the front-leading pack of runners, which included a herd of Colorado runners.
“I think she should be able to finish in the top-20 if she runs well,” Ereng said. “For the last few weeks she looked very good at practice, and we’re hoping she’ll give100 percent when we get there.”
In total, 31 teams and 38 individuals not part of those teams will be participating in each race. The course will take place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. The women’s 6K will commence at 9 a.m. MT followed by the men’s 10K at 10 a.m. MT.
A live stream of the event will be available at NCAA.com.